Law Enforcement

  • Law enforcementChanges to Pentagon equipment transfers to local police not likely

    Some lawmakers and their constituents are calling for restrictions on the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to law-enforcement agencies through the Defense Logistics AgencyLaw Enforcement Support Office. Congressional insiders say, however, that little will be done in the short-term.

  • CrimeDrawing lessons from “perfect heists” for national security

    In 2003, the unthinkable happened at Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Center. Thieves broke into its reputedly impenetrable vault and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, gold, cash and other valuables. The Antwerp Diamond Center theft and other sophisticated, high-value heists show that motivated criminals can find ways to overcome every obstacle between them and their targets. Can the Energy and Defense departments, responsible for analyzing, designing, and implementing complex systems to protect vital national security assets, learn from security failures in the banking, art, and jewelry worlds?

  • ForensicsBullets database to help match bullets, cartridge cases to specific firearms

    Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are working to improve ballistics matching methods with assistance from the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department Crime Laboratory. Their work together will contribute to a collection of topographic data from thousands of fired bullets and cartridge cases. The collection, which they ultimately plan to issue as an open research database, will improve the scientific basis of forensic techniques used to match bullets and cartridge cases to specific firearms.

  • Law enforcementLawmakers reconsider transfer of military gear to local police

    Federal officials are considering placing restrictions on the 1990 Department of Defense Excess Property (1033) Program which authorized the Pentagon to give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement units to fight the war on drugs. The program was later explained as also heling in the fight against terrorism. Though violent crime nationwide is at its lowest levels in decades, the transfers of military equipment to police forces have surged.

  • GunsSmart-gun design met with suspicion by gun rights advocates

    Ernst Mauch, a mainstay of the weapons industry and a long-term gunmaker at Heckler & Koch, has recently upset gun rights advocates, who used to praise his work, with his new computer-assisted smart gun design. The new gun incorporates twenty-first century computing and intelligence features to eliminate the potential for danger in the wrong hands: it will only operate if the owner is wearing a special wrist watch.

  • Law enforcementThe militarization of local police

    The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old African American by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, and the use by the Ferguson police of armored personnel carriers, machine-guns on tripods, stun grenades, and other military gear in a heavy-handed effort to disperse demonstrators protesting the killing, raised anew the question of the adoption of military equipment by local police departments. Critics say that more and more police departments now resemble military units, and that military gear is used in cases where it should not – as was the case in a small Florida town in 2010, when officers in SWAT gear drew out their guns on raids on barbershops that mostly led to charges of “barbering without a license.”

  • Currency smugglingNew device sniffs out billions in U.S. currency smuggled across the border

    Criminals are smuggling an estimated $30 billion in U.S. currency into Mexico each year from the United States, but help could be on the way for border guards, researchers reported. The answer to the problem: a portable device that identifies specific vapors given off by U.S. paper money.

  • CrimeA heathy fear of crime is a good thing

    In the past half-century, fear of crime in the United States has fueled “white flight” from big cities, become known as a quality of life issue, and prompted scholars and law enforcement experts to address ways of reducing this fear. A new study argues, however, that a healthy fear of crime is, in fact, a good thing. The study suggests adolescents who are more fearful of crime are less apt to become victims and offenders of violent acts.

  • CrimeCrime rates affected by who has administrative, budgetary responsibility for prisons

    In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court forced California to deal with the massive overcrowding in its prison system. The resulting reform shifted administrative and budgetary responsibility for low-level criminals from the state prison system to county jails. As a result, local California jails now face more overcrowding than ever, and local law enforcement is saddled with additional costs for imprisoning arrestees. In Israel, the trend has been in the opposite direction: an administrative reform which transferred authority over jails from the police to the Prison Authority resulted in the police sending more people to jail. A new study found that police are more inclined to issue arrests when prisons have administrative responsibility for detainees. The effect on crime: crime in Israel dropped as a result of the reform largely because the police — feeling less budgetary pressure — felt free to arrest more suspects, many of whom would have gotten off in the past with a warning.

  • Domestic threatsU.S. law enforcement agencies perceive Sovereign citizen movement as top terrorist threat

    Sovereign citizen, Islamist extremist, and militia/patriot groups are perceived by U.S. law enforcement agencies to pose the greatest threats to their communities, according to a new study. While sovereign citizens were the top concern of law enforcement, assessments about whether most groups were a serious terrorist threat actually declined for most groups (for example, the KKK; Christian Identity; Neo-Nazis; Racist Skinheads; Environmental Extremists; Animal Rights Extremists) when compared to a previous study. The authors conducted in-depth interviews with officers representing 175 state, local, and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agencies, and found that the Sovereign Citizen movement was the most highly ranked threat, with 86 percent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that it was a serious terrorist threat. Approximately 67 percent agreed or strongly agreed that Islamist extremists were a serious terrorist threat.

  • Driverless carsFBI: driverless cars could be used as bombs-on-wheels

    Whether or not a driverless car, from Google or any other company, ever makes it to market, the FBI thinks it may be a “game changing” vehicle which could dramatically change high-speed car chases so that the pursued vehicle would have an advantage over the pursuing car. An agency report also warned that such cars may be used as “lethal weapons.”

  • Radiation risksTennessee man pleads guilty to attempting to extort a nuclear contractor

    Adam Winters, 26, of Robbins, Tennessee, has pleaded guilty in a $2.5 million extortion case involving Babcock and Wilcox, a managing contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. According to Oak Ridge Today, Winters sent the contractors an e-mail on 8 May, threatening to injure their reputation by publishing roughly 1,200 slides containing evidence from nuclear testing, including the amount of radiation used on animals.

  • Digital forensicsCloud computing poses technical challenges for digital crime-fighters

    The ultimate in distributed computing, cloud computing is revolutionizing how digital data is stored, processed, and transmitted. It enables convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources, including servers, storage, and applications. The characteristics that make this new technology so attractive also create challenges for forensic investigators who must track down evidence in the ever-changing, elastic, on-demand, self-provisioning cloud computing environments.

  • CybersecurityPennsylvania cybersecurity group takes down international criminal network

    Over the past month, a coalition of cybersecurity forces in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania made of regional FBI officers and members of Carnegie Mellon University’s CERT cyberteam, took down the Gameover Zeus cyber theft network, which had employed data ransom and theft schemes. The criminal group was able to snatch funds up to seven figures from owners’ bank accounts.

  • PrivacySupreme Court: police must obtain a warrant to search suspect’s cellphone

    Earlier this week the Supreme Courtruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a suspect’s cellphone. Law enforcement argued that no current law makes a distinction between cellphones and the pocket litter (wallets, cigarette packs) which police have always been permitted to search when arresting a suspect, but Chief Justice John Roberts rejected this argument, saying, “That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” adding: . “Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet or a purse.” Roberts acknowledged that requiring police to seek a warrant could impede some investigations but “privacy comes at a cost,” he said.